The Washington Capitals didn’t make the biggest moves ahead of the NHL trade deadline, but they may have made the right moves.
Adding Nick Jensen and Carl Hagelin helped shore up what has been at times a shaky defensive team this season and has helped propel them back to the top of the Metropolitan Division with what is, as of Monday, a four-point lead over the New York Islanders.
They have not lost since the trade deadline, are on a seven-game winning streak, and have won nine of their past 10 games overall.
It is not just the winning that is encouraging for the Capitals this time of year that matters, it is also the way they are winning.
They are dominating.
In six games since the trade deadline the Capitals are rolling along with a 58.1 Corsi percentage (tops in the NHL), have controlled more than 56 percent of the scoring chances at even-strength (also tops in the NHL), and have outscored teams by a 24-10 margin. No, they have not really played a collection of the league’s strongest teams since then, but you can only play the team that is lined up across from you and if you are a true contender you are supposed to dominate the lower-tier teams. The Capitals have been doing all of that and more.
With the superstar talent they still have throughout the lineup playing the way it is (Alex Ovechkin might score 55 goals as a 33-year-old!), a goalie that is capable of getting hot and carrying the team at any time, and the necessary tweaks made at the trade deadline they are going to have a real shot to make another run at the Stanley Cup.
They make the top-four in this week’s PHT Power Rankings.
Where does everyone else fit?
To the rankings!
1. Tampa Bay Lightning — Not even sure they have played their best hockey as of late and they are still 13-2-0 over their past 15 games entering the week. The numbers around this team, and their top player Nikita Kucherov, are just comical.
2. Boston Bruins — Depth was always a concern, and it seemed like it was going to be a big issue as even more injuries started to mount, but they just keep on winning, collecting points, and very quietly have the second best record in the NHL. Maybe Bruce Cassidy should be in that coach of the year discussion, too?
4. Washington Capitals — Do not count them out.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs — The NHL’s playoff format has been the same for several years now, and every year a couple of top-five teams meet in the first or second round and one of them gets sent home earlier than maybe they otherwise deserve. Is it ideal? No. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Has there been any kind of a huge push to change it? A little but, but nothing fierce enough to make it happen. But if Toronto gets bounced in the first round to Boston again? Oh man, you can be sure there will be a lot more noise about it.
6. Calgary Flames — The Sharks and the Flames might be the two best teams in the Western Conference and they might have the shakiest goaltending situation of any team that makes the playoffs.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins — Sidney Crosby has played his way back into the MVP discussion. He is probably not going to win it over Kucherov, but he should at least be a finalist with the way he has dominated this season. Especially over the past few weeks.
8. Winnipeg Jets — Been saying this for a while now, but the play on the ice does not seem to match the record. This team has more to offer.
9. New York Islanders — Everything about the way they have actually played this season has pointed to an eventual regression. Not saying it is definitely happening now, but only four wins in their previous 10 games is not ideal, especially at this time of year.
10. Carolina Hurricanes — They are not even a lock to make the playoffs, but you have to love the way they are playing right now with a 22-7-1 record since Dec. 31. They are young, fast, fun, and could prove to be a real headache … if they get in.
12. Vegas Golden Knights — Mark Stone has been a huge addition but they will only go as far as Marc-Andre Fleury will allow them to go. His boom-or-bust season makes them a total wild card in the West.
13. Nashville Predators — As of Monday they have not won a game in regulation or overtime since Feb. 21. Their only three wins during that stretch all came in a shootout. Not exactly the sign of a team that is playing great, and kind of underwhelming (at least for now) after their big trade deadline additions.
14. Minnesota Wild — A truly bizarre season in Minnesota. It would be an amazing story if they ended up making the playoffs after going into a sellers mode at the trade deadline. Before their ugly loss to Florida over the weekend (the second half of a back-to-back) they had collected at least a point in eight consecutive games.
15. Arizona Coyotes — If this team ends up making the playoffs it might be enough for Rick Tocchet to take the Jack Adams Award away from Barry Trotz.
17. Columbus Blue Jackets — I had high expectations for this team after the trade deadline but, as of now, things have not gone according to plan. At all. Their remaining schedule is also pretty tough with a couple of sets of back-to-backs, three games against Boston and then two more against the Predators.
18. Montreal Canadiens — The Canadiens have had some brutal late-season collapses in recent years, and with only five wins in their past 14 games it is worth wondering if it might be happening again.
19. Philadelphia Flyers — Their record under Scott Gordon has been good, but I’m not sure how much that has to do with him and how much of it has to do with the goaltending situation finally getting secured with Carter Hart.
21. Buffalo Sabres — I know you can’t just take away a 10-game winning streak, but that streak was always a fluke and their entire season outside of that has simply been more of the same old Sabres.
22. Chicago Blackhawks — They still have the forwards to compete, but the defense is as bad as we have seen in the NHL in more than a decade.
23. Edmonton Oilers — They did win four games in a row, but three of those wins came against Ottawa, Buffalo, and Vancouver. They are in the process of not only wasting what will probably be a 110-point season from Connor McDavid, but what might be a 50-goal season from Leon Draisaitl. Truly stunning numbers.
24. Anaheim Ducks — Hopefully getting a chance to see his team from behind the bench will tell Bob Murray just how mediocre the whole thing has become and get him to make the necessary changes this summer.
25. Florida Panthers — They have had 22 games (pretty much one third of their schedule) go to overtime or a shootout this season, which is just an insane number. That is really no way to be a competitive team on a consistent basis with so many of your games basically coming down to a coin flip.
26. New York Rangers — They only have two wins since Feb. 20, both of them coming against a Devils team that can barely put a full roster on the ice right now.
27. Vancouver Canucks — Remember when the Canucks seemed to be “ahead of schedule” in their rebuild? They might win 33 or 34 games this season instead of the 30 or 31 they have been winning the past few years, and they still have the fewest wins in the NHL since the start of the 2015-16 season (excluding Vegas, who is only in its second season). Even worse, they are once again in a position where their odds of landing the top pick in the draft are not all that high.
28. New Jersey Devils — Injuries and trades have just decimated this roster to the point where it barely resembles an NHL team right now.
29. Detroit Red Wings — Probably the best thing that has happened over the past few weeks is getting their first glimpse at first-round draft pick Filip Zadina, who scored his first NHL goal. His development will play a big role in where this rebuild goes.
30. Los Angeles Kings — There can be no shortcuts or quick fixes here, they need a massive overhaul this offseason because this roster as currently constructed does not really have anything going for it.
31. Ottawa Senators — All of this losing is a big win for the Avalanche, who own their 2019 first-round draft pick.